DB7 i6 Volante Description
In production: May 1996 - April 1999
Chassis numbers: 201002 - 202702
The history of the Aston Martin marque is crammed with desirable convertible cars, supremely stylish, sporting, elegant and much sought after. From 1965, beginning with the DB5/DB6 hybrid ‘short chassis’, AM convertibles have been known as Volantes, an Italian word for 'flying'. In order to be really accepted as a credible Aston Martin, the DB7 had to be offered as a convertible as well as a coupe; fortunately, this was firmly established right at the beginning of the programme.
Many people believe that the design of the Volante was done simultaneously with the Coupe, although it is now known that the Coupe was signed off before real work on the Volante began. The Volante already had a head start being related to the ill-fated ‘F-type’ convertible, the XJ-42 and of course, the XJ-S. Prototype Volante Fully Engineered Vehicles (FEVs) had been running on UK public roads from the latter half of 1994 with a very clear picture published in the ‘Autocar’ magazine of 7th December 1994. It was amazing that a model kit of the Volante, from the French company Provence Moulage, became available in March 1995, 9 months before the official unveiling – talk about spoiling the surprise!
It is understood that six complete FEV Volantes were built but for some reason not all were destroyed and some were retained within TWR for internal use. By 2000, at least one car was sold off and this is currently owned by a club member. The Registrar has it on good authority that other earlier Volante FEVs were sold off; these are easily distinguished by their pre-air bagged steering wheels and ‘tombstone’ seat backs. These have not been traced.
The first public appearance of the Volante was at the Detroit and Los Angeles motor shows in January 1996. With former Aston Martin works driver Sir Stirling Moss at the wheel and Ford Chairman, Alex Trotman as passenger, the Volante was ceremonially driven onto a revolving stage accompanied by a trumpet fanfare. The European launch took place at the Geneva Show in the spring of 1996. Launching the Volante in the USA was very carefully planned as it was to be the principal market for the car and its appearance coincided with the simultaneous launch of the coupe and a re-launch of the marque to the North American market. Cars were first dispatched to the US in May 1996.
Ian Callum, in designing the Volante, managed to make it look good with the hood up as well as down. This was achieved by fully redesigning all of the bodywork behind the doors. The automatic mechanism took 10 seconds to lower the five layered mohair hood, fully lined with Alcantara and with a proper heated glass rear screen. This time may appear quite quick but it is more like 30 seconds when you include manual opening of two over-centre latches and the lowering of the side windows. The tonneau cover was a separate item that has to be manually clipped into place, taking more than a minute for the untrained. The engineers could have made the hood fold totally into the bodywork but this would have greatly reduced the capacity of the fuel tank and the boot. Customer feedback suggested that owners wanted to be able to carry golf clubs and have a good sized fuel tank. The Volante has almost the same boot space as the coupe (0.15 cu/m v 0.17 cu/m) and almost the same fuel tank capacity (82 litres v 89 litres).
The chassis of the Volante still needed some additional strengthening, namely tubular braces to the doorsills, a substantially strengthened windscreen surround and under floor cross bracing. This work was so successful that the Volante finished with virtually the same torsional strength as the coupe. All this added a modest 150kg to the weight over the early coupe (but only 75kg over the 1997MY coupe) and together with increased drag, reduced performance by a small amount. Top speed was claimed to be 155mph with 0-60 coming up in around six seconds for a manual car; ‘Autocar’ magazine managed about 152mph and 6.5 seconds to 60 mph for a manual car.
The Volante lost the rear anti roll bar fitted to the early coupe and was given stiffer springs but with softer damping; the revised configuration was made, apparently, to suit American tastes. The result, whilst not eliminating scuttle shake, meant that it was at least very well camouflaged. The softer ‘Volante suspension setup’ was also adopted by the 1997MY coupe.
DB7 i6 Volante Derivatives
See DB7 i6 Coupe for additional derivatives.
DB7 Neiman Marcus
Chassis Numbers 202399 then 202513 to 202541. In production: Q4 1998
All other special editions of the i6 were available in both coupe and Volante variants, whereas the Neiman Marcus was available only with the Volante body. Neiman Marcus is a top quality North American store. For Christmas 1998, it offered an exclusive run of 10 DB7s in its special limited edition catalogue - the 'Answer Book' - available at a price of $150,000 each. All were finished in a unique shade of black especially created for the car; this was complemented by a black mohair convertible roof and light grey Connolly hide interior. The traditional wood veneers for the instruments, centre console and doors tops were replaced by carbon fibre panels. The wheels were finished in bright chrome, as was the smart wire mesh grille. In addition to the car, owners received a set of matching black luggage by Swaine Adeney Brigg of London and a monogrammed black car cover.